Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Shanghai Day 1: July 27, 2006

(written July 29, 2006)
I had to get up quite early. I left my home just after 7AM. The airport in Seoul sucked. I was there the standard 2 hours early, thinking I could check in, get my return stamp for my VISA and then sit down for some breakfast. Things didn’t quite work out that way. I got there and looked at where I was to check in. I was on the 10:30am Shanghai Air flight to Shanghai. The board said to go to L for Shanghai air. I went there, but the only line-ups were for another airline. There were Shanghai lines with notices saying they would open at 9:30am. I thought that was a bit odd. I went to get my return VISA stamp, and then changed some money. I went back and still nothing. I wandered around a bit, asking people, and they all directed me to L. Finally, around 9:30, someone told me that no, I was supposed to be at E, the Korean Air check in counters, as it was a joint flight, serviced by Korean Air. Why could no one have told me that before all of the asking and wondering and worrying??? So I went to E. They told me I should be at L. Argh. I told them that the counters at L told me I had to be at E. So then they sent me to D, to the Korean Air flight to Japan line-up, which was sooooooooooooooooo long. I waited a while and eventually, at around 5 to 10, they finally realized that I was in a hurry as I was supposed to be boarding around 10:10. Once at the counter it was fine. The window seat I had requested when buying my tickets was not listed, but there was one window seat still open. I then went through the gate to security. I was stopped, as they spotted something in my bag. I had been very careful when packing, to make sure I didn’t put anything in there that wasn’t supposed to be in there. I guess I had missed my little key chain scissors that I had taken off my key chain (I took them off thinking I couldn’t take them on the plane… but I guess they fell into my bag when I was packing). They told me I had to go back out and check in at the L counters. I said, no, I checked in at D. They told me I was wrong. Either way, I had to go back out to check in again. I went straight to D. After talking to a couple of people, they took me to the front of the line, where they put my little scissors into a little check in envelope and off it went. I then got to go through the side gate of the security, to skip the line, as my plane was starting to board already. I made it, at least.
The flight ended up taking off a half hour late, but then was uneventful. They served a hot meal. I’m not sure exactly what it would be called. It had a bread layer, a beef layer with mushrooms, and another bread (onion bread) layer on top, all baked. A bit odd, but not too bad.
At the Shanghai airport, everything was pretty much standard, except I had to go to the carousel to pick up my little envelope. An airport worker lady was standing there holding it, waiting for it to be claimed.
I had to figure out how to get to my hotel. While I was looking at my book, a guy asked me if I needed help. I told him I needed to get to the Metropole Hotel. He said the best way was by bus, as one went right to that area. He directed me in the right direction and told me which gate number to wait for the bus. Once there, I asked a couple of people. They all just shrugged their shoulders and said no. I went onto one bus and asked. A girl spoke English and said the bus I should have been on just left one minute before. She told me the best thing to do would be to get on the next bus, which would take me to the (Renmin) People’s Square, where it was an easy taxi ride to the hotel. I said Okay, as I just wanted to sit down, and get to my hotel. Stress.
The bus dropped me off at the YMCA hotel. I knew it was in the right area, but I had no idea where to go from there. One of the guys from the YMCA hailed me a cab and told the driver where I wanted to be. Finally… my hotel.
Even though I only had my backpack, purse and computer case, the bellboy insisted on putting my bags on the trolley. What ever. I checked in and got to my room.
One of the things that the hotel advertised was complementary Internet in the rooms. I tried to hook up my computer. Problem. They hadn’t put the proper cable in my room, so I had to call down for one. Then, my computer showed that it was connecting to the Net, but I couldn’t log on to the hotel’s system, and still can’t. When I click on Login, all I get is a page saying: “SORRY, REFUSE TO CONNECT! THE REASON IS: THE CHECK OF PORT CAN NOT PASS!” How frustrating. They say it is not the hotel system or the connection that is the problem… it is my computer. That is all they would do. I have to spend 10 Yuan for half an hour use of the Net in the little one computer business center they have in the lobby. I guess that is not so bad, but when I came expecting to be able to hook up my computer in my room, it is a bit disappointing. I’m still trying to figure it out.
I spent around 4 hours trying to figure it out, having them make me move my things to try it in another room, only to move me back when I got the same response.
Finally I decided enough was enough and went out for a bit of wandering. I made my way around one of the little walking tours that my Lonely Planet guide suggested around my area. It was a nice walk, but not so interesting; just buildings to look at. Then I walked along the Bund. The Bund is the street along the river. It is all historical buildings from the 20s? 30s? Very nice. You also have a great view of the Pudong area, where the Pearl Tower is.
The Pearl Tower is a TV tower with big pink balls. The Jinmao Tower, China's tallest building, is the pointy building to the right in the distance. The observation deck of that is on the 88th floor.
After a while wandering up and down the Bund, I headed back to my hotel. After resting for a bit, once it started getting darker, I headed back to the Bund again to see it at night. All of the buildings are lit up, so it is a beautiful place to look around. I had supper at a little Italian restaurant called Ristorante Truffle. I had spaghetti Bolognese. It was very good. I ordered mineral water as my drink. They opened a hug glass bottle of water from Greece or somewhere like that. Why didn’t they give me the smaller bottle?? Strange. I almost finished the bottle, though, so I guess it wasn’t so bad. One of the waiters stopped to chat with me for a bit. He is from the Philippines. He had just gotten back to Shanghai from a 3-month vacation at home. My pasta and water cost me a whole 130 Y… about $18 CAD?? Not cheap, but the foreign food restaurants in Shanghai generally aren't.
After eating, I decided it was time to head back to my hotel. It was already getting late, and I was exhausted. It was a VERY long day.
The exchange rate is about 7 Yuan per $1 (Canadian).

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